Research Chairs

Current Research Chairs & Fellows

Dr. Marcia Ostashewski, Canada Research Chair in Communities and Cultures

marcia-ostashewskiDr. Marcia Ostashewski is the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Communities and Cultures. Ostashewski’s work is specific to communities with a focus on music, dance and digital humanities research, as a mean to address concrete social problems. This research will improve understandings of music, dance and digital media, and how we create and make them meaningful in our lives.

Dr. Heather Sparling, Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions

Heather Sparling web versionDr. Heather Sparling is the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions. She has published extensively on Nova Scotia Gaelic song and is also researching Atlantic Canadian disaster songs ( She is interested in exploring how traditional music helps to sustain communities. For example, she is exploring how Gaelic song can help sustain Nova Scotia’s Gaelic communities, and she’s interested in how disaster songs help grieving communities to cope with – and rebuild from – tragedy and loss. She is also interested in exploring practical applications of her research, such as through a tablet-based museum exhibit in development and through the creation of Gaelic song resources for use by language learners. She is the recipient of multiple SSHRC and CFI grants and was the first CBU faculty member to win the Association of Atlantic Universities’ Anne Marie MacKinnon Educational Leadership award in 2012. She organized the International Small Island Cultures conference in 2012 and was one of the co-chairs of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in 2013. She is the editor of MUSICultures, the academic journal of the Canadian Society for Traditional Music. She has published numerous articles, including in the top journal in her field, Ethnomusicology.

Dr. Bruce G. Hatcher, Research Chair in Marine Ecosystem Management and Director of the Bras d’Or Institute

Dr. Bruce Hatcher builds capacity for marine research and ecosystem-based management of natural resource use in the academic, public and private sectors. His partnerships in research with the federal and non-governmental organizations, community and fishing groups has improved understanding of emerging fisheries and land-ocean interactions in the coastal ecosystems of Cape Breton, especially Sydney Harbour and the Bras d’Or estuary. He strives to reconcile ecologically and economically sustainability use of marine resource through collaborative action and rigorous experimentation. Since his appointment at to the Bras d’Or institute Bruce has renewed productive partnerships and attracted more than $1M in research funding from a wide range of organizations. Bruce is actively building an underwater science program at CBU and training research divers.

Dr. Keith G. Brown, Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies

The Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies promotes interest among Canada’s Aboriginal people in the study of business at the post-secondary level, while undertaking pure and applied research specific to Aboriginal communities. The Chair focuses his attention and research efforts on the Membertou Business Model, Unama’ki Partnership Model and national and international comparative analysis.The Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies resides in Cape Breton University’s Shannon School of Business and is held by CBU Vice-President, Dr. Keith G. Brown. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Brown has demonstrated interest and commitment to Aboriginal education. His professional and academic experience spans local, regional and national First Nations issues and he is recognized as an international educator, author and speaker on the subject of Cultural Tourism Marketing. His demonstrated leadership has supported partnerships, research, programming, national accomplishments and most importantly, successful graduates.

Dr. Graham Reynolds, Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice

GrahamThe Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice is named in honour of the pioneer Black businesswoman and civil rights icon who many regard as Canada’s Rosa Parks. In 1946, Viola Desmond was wrongfully arrested for refusing to give up her seat in a racially segregated theatre in the town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. The Chair was created in 2010, following the action of the Nova Scotia Government in posthumously granting Viola Desmond a free pardon.

Dr. Ken Oakes, Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Remediation

Dr. Ken Oakes has experience in dealing with a variety of contaminants found in aquatic systems. More information about his work and experience can be found here.

Dr. Martin Mkandawire, Industrial Research Chair in Mine Water Remediation and Management

Dr. Mkandawire is part of the Verschuren Centre team. More details about his work and a full biography can be found here.

Past Chairs


Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Healthy Communities

CRC in Determinants of Healthy Communities

Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox is the Tier Two Canada Research Chair in the Determinants of Healthy Communities. Cunsolo Willox’s research will improve knowledge surrounding the causes of health disparities and develop strategies to decrease health inequities in many parts of Canada. Using community-engaged health research, this Chair will support and enhance the determinants of healthy communities in resource-dependent, rural and remote, and Aboriginal populations across Canada. For more information visit

Dr. Cheryl Bartlett, Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science

Dr. Cheryl Bartlett completed her Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science in 2013. Integrative Science is the concept pioneered at CBU, in conjunction with Aboriginal Elders and educators, by which Indigenous and Western worldviews in science and education are brought together for the benefit of all people. “My research program sits at the nexus of science, culture, and society”, says Dr. Bartlett. “It serves an overall, two-fold, long-term goal: to help Aboriginal individuals and Indigenous knowledges become increasingly and actively involved in science in the 21st century, AND to help mainstream science better engage with Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing.”

Dr. Dale Keefe, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Spectroscopy

Dr. Dale Keefe completed his five year term as a Tier Two Canada Research Chair in Molecular Spectroscopy in 2011.  His current research interests are in understanding how iterations within liquids affect their physical and chemical properties from both experimental and theoretical perspectives.  He is currently the Vice President (Academic) and Provost at Cape Breton University.

Dr. Richard MacKinnon, Canada Research Chair in Intangible Culture

Dr. Richard MacKinnon completed his seven year term as a Tier One Canada Research Chair in Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. His research interests include all aspects of Atlantic Canada’s culture including oral traditions, music, language, material culture and vernacular architecture. He is the founding director of the Centre for Cape Breton Studies, a research centre that includes a state-of-the-art digitization lab and the Rotary Music Performance Analysis Room. His publications include Vernacular Architecture in the Codroy, Newfoundland (Ottawa: National Museum of Civilization, 2002), and Discovering Cape Breton Folklore (Sydney: Cape Breton University Press, 2009). He is the editor of Material Culture Review which is distributed to more than 20 countries.  He has developed numerous multimedia tools, recordings and websites for the communication of research.